Magnet fishing is equal parts environmentalism and treasure hunting. You’ll come across a lot of interesting finds that have long been forgotten about, but you’ll also be doing your part in helping care for the rivers and coastlines. You may have heard stories about people pulling everything from coins and lost items to guns and even motorbikes out of the water—it’s usually done with a heavy-duty magnet and grappling hooks on occasion! Keep reading to get some of our favorite magnet fishing tips.
What’s Magnet Fishing?
Magnet fishing is probably what it sounds like—fishing with a magnet. Toss a magnet in the water, let it hit the bottom, then pull it up just a couple inches and sweep. You’ll pull up all kinds of things—fishing equipment, electronics, coins, knives, guns, bikes… You get the idea.
Choosing a Magnet and Other Magnet Fishing Tips
Magnet fishing involves some research, an eye for good fishing spots, and a little bit of patience (especially when trying to pull larger objects out of the water or getting your magnet unstuck). If you’re ready to get started, we’ve included some information on equipment and a few magnet fishing tips so you know what to expect.
There is so such thing as a magnet that’s too strong.
You might be tempted to get the strongest magnet you can find—don’t fall into that trap! While most things you’re fishing for won’t be perfectly flat against it, there will be some cases where you won’t be able to detach your findings from it (or at least not in one piece). And in the event that you come into contact with something too big to pull out of the water (particularly large flat sheets of metal that are stuck in the ground), you’ll have a rough time retrieving your magnet.
For heavy and awkwardly weighted objects, you might need a grappling hook (and a friend) to assist you with getting it out of the water.
A sturdy rope and a bit of Loctite are your best friends.
Get a sturdy rope, preferably something that’s smooth and won’t wear too easily. I’ve included a few kits and magnets below that are good to get started with. I’d recommend getting a rope that’s at least 50 feet. Having a longer rope will also help when you inevitably have to dislodge your magnet, as you can wrap it around your waist and lean against it (or lunge, if that’s not working). Just make sure you don’t fall into anything!
If your magnet has an eyebolt, you’ll want to make sure it doesn’t come unscrewed and get a good threadlocker. Use Loctite 638 (red) if you don’t want it to ever come apart again and 242 (blue) if you want something that comes apart with regular tools. (You can remove it with a heat treatment, but in general, that thing isn’t coming apart after you let it cure. I generally don’t recommend using this one, but it’s good for bolts bigger than an M10.
Get a good pair of gloves.
You’ll want thick, durable gloves that can get a good grip on your rope when you’re recovering heavier finds. And since we’re dealing with metal, you don’t know when you’re going to encounter objects with sharp edges and corners. Gloves are a must!
Research laws in your area—like metal detecting, magnet fishing isn’t always legal.
Magnet fishing is allowed in all states as of writing this, with the exception of South Carolina, where there are regulations and licensing requirements for recovering artifacts and fossils from waterways. Recovering underwater artifacts requires a Hobby License and items have to be inspected before bringing them above water and they must be obtained by hand. These are just a few of the regulations—more details can be found here and here.
In addition to state laws, you’ll want to research more local regulations on what’s allowed in your city or county. Depending on the area, there may be regulations on recovering artifacts and fossils from certain places.
For more finds, pick a spot with lots of traffic.
Bridges, docks, and the sides of crowded waterways are always good if you’re looking for a lot of finds. Fishing docks often turn up lots of hooks, lures, poles, and other related equipment, but if it’s a common sightseeing place, you’ll often find lots of other things like cameras, cell phones, wallets, coins and other things people commonly keep on them. Anywhere with lots of people and lots of boats going in and out is a safe bet for lots of finds.
Avoid the metal supports on piers and docks. If your magnet gets stuck flat on the side of a support, it’s going to take a while to get it off. Your best bet is to find one with wooden supports or one that’s supported by floats. Metal supports are not your friend. Floating supports are also nice because you can get under the dock, which is an area that doesn’t get a lot of attention and you can usually find some interesting things.
Be prepared to deal with your finds.
Don’t just dump them back in the river! Magnet fishers have a bad rap in some areas, particularly if they leave their find on the shore or dump them off elsewhere. If you come across a bunch of junk you don’t want (which is highly likely), take it to the scrapyard and dispose of it properly.
Somewhat less likely, but not unheard of, is coming across everything from motorcycles to weapons (in this guy’s case, a submachine gun). It’s best to turn them over to local law enforcement. Laws are different for most states, but federal law states that it’s illegal to possess firearms that have the serial number removed or altered and most of the time, the weapon will be unrecognizable. The best thing to do is take a picture, notify the police and stand by until they arrive, and move on.
Even less likely, but still good to know about, is what to do with explosives. Even if they’ve been in the water for years, they still might be live, in which case they need to be stored until they can be detonated and stored or disposed of.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed our magnet fishing tips! Stop by and share your finds with us or send this to a friend who’d want to go on a fishing trip with you.